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Paramilitary soldiers patrol on a deserted street during a curfew in Srinagar yesterday.
New Delhi: The “time is not ripe” for withdrawing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from the Kashmir Valley, Indian Army chief General Bikram Singh said here yesterday. He also noted that the proposed mountain strike corps was in an advanced stage of finalisation.
Referring to the AFSPA as an enabler, Singh said it should stay. “The time is not right at the moment to tamper with the framework,” he said at the India Today conclave, two days after five Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers were killed in a suicide attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar.
Referring to the attack, he said it was important “to wait and watch” before taking a decision on AFSPA. This decision should not be politicised and the army was only strengthening the hands of the state government, he said.
“The nation has to take a decision which is pragmatic in terms of national security,” he said, adding the army did not want to turn the clock back in Jammu and Kashmir, Gen. Singh said at an interactive session on “Role of Army in nation building”.
He said the attack in Srinagar pointed to the emboldened stance of terrorists.
Singh said a decision on AFSPA had to be finally taken by the government.
All political parties in the Kashmir Valley, except the Congress, have for long been demanding partial or total withdrawal of the AFSPA.
Singh rejected suggestions that the army did not want to give up its counterinsurgency role.
“Who wants to die? We are not there for fun. We are there because the nation wants us to be there,” the general said.
Singh said India was also going for modernisation and accretions to its armed forces but this was not aimed at any country.
“The mountain strike corps is in advanced stage of finalisation,” he said.
Analysts say the mountain strike corps is aimed at bridging operational gaps along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and to acquire offensive capabilities against China.
At the same time, he said, India and China had mechanisms in place to deal with matters concerning their vexed border issue that saw the two countries fight a bitter war in 1962.
Asked about growing asymmetry in military spending between India and China, the army chief said he did not see this impacting on strategy.
He also noted that India and China had set a target of taking bilateral trade to $100bn by 2015 and that geoeconomics was as important as geopolitics.
Answering queries from a Pakistani journalist on the Siachen glacier, Singh said agreements could not be reached on the issue due to a trust deficit between New Delhi and Islamabad.